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Name: Manoj Bhagwat.
Date of birth: Jan. 9, 1968.
Place of birth: Pune, India.
Came to the U.S.: November 2007. I got transferred to Columbus from Pune, where I worked for Cummins India.
Joined Cummins India: 1988
Job title: Manager of off-highway engine certification for the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Duties: The job involves getting certification for Cummins products from government agencies. I make sure that engines meet regulatory standards.
Education: Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Pune University, American Society for Quality-
certified quality manager.
Family: Widowed. My son Siddarth, 20, studies mechanical engineering at Purdue College of Technology in Columbus.
Hobbies: Walking in the neighborhood, reading books (especially about astrology), vice president of Indian Association of Columbus, playing cricket, taking long drives because in India we never got the opportunity to drive fast because of traffic.
Q: When you first came to the U.S., what major differences between the U.S. and India did you notice immediately?
A: I noticed that roads and public places are very clean. And everything is very organized and structured. And everybody follows traffic laws and stops at stop signs. When I moved to Columbus, I was surprised by the lack of tall buildings. Also, my son and I are used to seeing lots of people. When we came here, my son said, “I don’t see any people around.” That is a very significant difference.
Q: How did you adjust to living in the U.S. as a single parent?
A: I initially came alone in 2007, and I brought my son in 2008. My parents came, too, and helped, and they’ve been back since then. They stayed for 10 weeks each time, and we traveled a lot, to New York City, the Smoky Mountains, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Niagara Falls, etc.
Q: What major obstacles did you experience in moving to and living in the U.S.?
A: My son and I speak Hindi, Marathi and English, but initially we, especially I, struggled a lot to understand American English. It wasn’t so much a problem at work, because we used business terminology, which is pretty much the same here and there, but following informal discussions and slang was difficult. I’ve adjusted over the years, and my coworkers and managers have helped me. I remember that early on when I asked for directions,
I easily got confused, because people used compass points to explain where I needed to go. I wasn’t aware that American cities were built on a grid, so the directions were difficult to follow. In India, we just tell people to take the second left, third right or whatever. And I’m still struggling with the cold weather, especially if we have to stand outside and clear snow off the driveway. We had seen snow only in movies. We try to adjust and enjoy the snow. My son goes skiing. I did once, but fell down a few times and couldn’t stand up.
Q: How have you adjusted culturally?
A: We try to get enjoyment from both cultures. We hold on to Indian traditions but we also adopt new ones. For example, I cook Marathi dishes, such as pohe (flattened rice), but I also eat American foods. My son eats almost 100 percent American food. He was Americanized very well in a very short time.
We also celebrate both Indian and American holidays and festivals. My son has dressed up at Halloween, and we give out candy in our neighborhood. It takes a while to understand the traditions and learn the proper terminology, such as “trick or treat.” On Thanksgiving, I’ve had dinner with friends, and though we eat turkey, we fix it Indian-style. We learn about and try to have fun with both cultures. My son also has adjusted very quickly to American sports — and though I do follow them sometimes, I still prefer watching cricket. On TV, we flip back and forth between Indian channels and American ones. I enjoy watching CNN, Food Network and HGTV.
Q: What advice do you have for internationals who are just now arriving in Columbus?
A: All international people want to enjoy their own culture, but you have to keep a balance. Try to partake in and enjoy local culture and festivals. For example, we enjoy the Ethnic Expo a lot. We eat Indian food, but over the course of the festival, we try to eat something from every country. People also should take advantage of the many local groups that help newcomers. At the Indian Association of Columbus, for example, we organize events, we help newcomers get adjusted and help them with lodging, vehicles, furniture or where they can buy groceries.
Q: What is your favorite city and why?
A: New York City. I have gone there five times. It’s big, it’s crowded and it has a lot to offer, from tall buildings to Times Square and sights such as the Statue of Liberty. It’s a different life.
Global Columbus is a twice monthly Q&A with members of Columbus’ international workforce. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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